Guide to Ambergris Caye

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Aerial photo of Ambergris Caye

Just off the coast of Belize lies Ambergris Caye (pronounced “am-BUR-gris” “key”) – it is one of Belize’s most popular destinations, in particular, its main settlement: San Pedro Town.

The island’s proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — makes it a top spot for diving, snorkeling, sailing and fishing. It’s also renowned for luxury beach resorts, excellent restaurants, and a nightlife scene that is unmatched elsewhere in Belize.

On this page
1. About Ambergris Caye
2. Things to Do
3. Where to Eat
4. Where to Stay
5. Best Time to Visit
6. Safety Concerns
7. Getting Here & Around
8. Related Blogs on Ambergris Caye

About Ambergris Caye

San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is Belize’s largest island and most popular destination. It is 25 miles long and about a mile across at its widest points. Its main town, San Pedro, is located in the southern part of the island and contains the airport and the largest concentration of shops, hotels, and restaurants.

Related: Top All-Inclusive Resorts in Belize and The Best Luxe Hotels in Belize

Ambergris Caye is 35 miles east of Belize City and 14 miles north of Caye Caulker. Perhaps more importantly, it’s just about 0.75 miles west of Belize’s Barrier Reef, the largest reef system in the Northern Hemisphere, which extends across Belize from Mexico on the north, to near the border with Guatemala on the south.

While Ambergris Caye is the most visited place in Belize, don’t expect it to be over-commercialized or overrun with tourists. The island maintains a low-key, laid-back vibe, earning it a devout following of regular travelers who return every year, and in some cases, they never leave. In fact, Ambergris Caye has Belize’s largest number of ex-pats, predominantly from the U.S.

Area:25 Square Miles
Nearby Settlements:San Pedro Town & Caye Caulker
Nearest Airport:John Greif II Airport (SPR)

Things to Do in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

Diving in Belize is one of the main reasons why tourist visit Ambergris Caye.

Aside from just lounging on the beach and taking in the beautiful views, there is a lot you can do on the island. Choose from water activities like kayaking, windsurfing, parasailing, or rent a Jet Ski for the afternoon. Of course, scuba diving and snorkeling are two of the biggest reasons people visit Ambergris Caye – in fact, 4 of the top 5 best diving sites in Belize are nearby.

The Belize Barrier Reef is less than a mile offshore so there are countless dive sites and snorkel stops within a 15-minute boat ride. You can spend the morning fishing on the reef and then your guide will cook your catch while you enjoy relaxing on the beach or snorkeling.

Top Things to Do in San Pedro

Where to Eat in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

Belize's San Pedro Lobsterfest

If you had a month on Ambergris Caye, you still probably wouldn’t be able to try all the great food spots on the island. Below I have listed my favourite spots but there are always plenty of new restaurants and bars popping up!

Ceviche is probably the most popular dish on the island, showcasing the freshness of the local seafood, but be sure to also try the Mayan buffet at Elvi’s Kitchen and stop in at Estel’s By the Sea for one of the best Belizean breakfasts in town. And don’t leave the island without trying lobster and conch when they are in season!

Top Food Spots in San Pedro

  1. Elvi’s Kitchen
  2. Estel’s Dine By The Sea
  3. El Fogon
  4. Blue Water Grill
  5. Waruguma

Where to Stay in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

pelican reef resort in san pedro belize

Despite an uptrend in luxury hotels and all inclusive beach resorts popping up on the island, Ambergris Caye still offers a variety of lodging options for every budget. From hostel-type accommodations to major international hotel chains to PADI 5 Star dive resorts, you will find something that will suit your needs here.

Best Time to Visit Ambergris Caye

La Reina de la Costa Maya 2014

The best time to visit Ambergris Caye is from December to April, during Belize’s dry season which coincides with Belize’s high tourism season since you can expect sunny days and clear blue skies. Due to the popularity of this time, however, the downside is that hotel stays and tours are more expensive.

But in all honesty, things in Belize are relatively not that different during the tourism offseason and a plus is that many discounts are offered. Belize’s offseason is during Central America’s wet season, but unless you’re visiting during a tropical storm, often the rain is overnight or for brief 1 to 2 hour periods, and the rest of the day is fine.

As for a specific day that is optimal to be in Ambergris Caye, this is possible during San Pedro’s Lobsterfest. Every year during the first week of June, the town throws a large festival at the start of the lobster season. Another great time is during the International Costa Maya Festival or right before Christmas when there is a Holiday-Lighted Boat Parade!

Top Events in Ambergris Caye
San Pedro Carnival, February
Easter Week, March or April
San Pedro Lobster Fest, July 4th – 15th (Belize’s Lobster Season runs from July to February)
Dia de San Pedro, June
The International Costa Maya Festival, August
Conch Season, October to June
Belize Independence Day, September 21st
Garifuna Settlement Day, November 19th
Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, December

Safety and Security Risks in Ambergris Caye

Caramba Restaurant and Grill in downtown San Pedro

Popular tourist areas in Belize, such as Ambergris Caye, are typically just as safe as where you live.

The most common crime is petty theft so normal safety precautions apply. Do not flash valuables or large sums of money, do not leave personal belongings unattended, do not walk alone late at night (especially while drunk), and lock your doors when you leave your room or vacation rental. If you’re staying at resorts, fortunately, they have in-room safes for valuables and security guards at night.

Most food and drinks are safe to consume in Ambergris Caye. But don’t drink the tap water. Resorts and hotels will use filters or provide “purified” water for guests so pack a reusable water bottle. If drinking water isn’t included in your stay, which may happen at vacation rentals, bottled water can be bought at local supermarkets.

Lastly, young women that are traveling alone/ are single may receive unwanted attention from Belizean men. Unfortunately, there is no “right way” to deal with catcalling but often the best response is to ignore it. Sorry.

Getting Here & Around

Golf carts are popular in Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye doesn’t have an international airport, so you’ll have to fly to the Philip Goldson International Airport (PGIA) near Belize City. From there you’ll need to either take a domestic flight or a watertaxi to the island.

  • Taking a domestic flight to Ambergris Caye is the most direct option. Both Belizean airlines: Tropic Air and Maya Island Air fly to San Pedro in Ambergris Caye from across Belize. From the BZE airport, a flight to San Pedro costs approx. US-$80 and you are treated to a 25-30 minute flight with fantastic views of the barrier reef and neighboring islands.
  • Water taxis to Ambergris Caye can be taken on a daily basis from the Belize City harbour. Boats leave for San Pedro on an hourly basis from 8 AM to 5:30 PM. The boat ride is about 1.5 hours and costs US$30.50 one way or US$56.50 RT. As for how to get to the Belize City harbour, from the BZE airport, I recommend catching a taxi (US$25) and from a land border, you can follow this guide.

Once you’re on Ambergris Caye, transportation options include walking, biking, golf carts, taxis, and resort ferries. Since the island is 25 miles long, most people rent a golf cart or catch a taxi to travel far beyond downtown San Pedro.

  • For short distances, walking or biking around San Pedro is best, especially in the downtown core which has many cool bars/restaurants and unique shops to explore. Many hotels offer free bikes to their guests.
  • However, for long distances, most people need to rent a golf cart, use the boat service/ ferry provided by their hotel, or catch a taxi. For example, if you plan on visiting Secret Beach, you’ll need to a cab or golf cart, since the drive is about 1 hour north of downtown San Pedro.

Ambergris Caye Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out top blogs that I’ve written on Ambergris Caye travel that may help make your trip better:

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